Craft : Sue Codee – papercuts

I’ve loved papercuts for a long while; love how they can be bold and delicate at the same time. And I’m a big admirer of people who can work this fragile medium into beautiful things. Sue Codee is a papercut artist currently living and practising her craft in Albany, Western Australia.

Her works explore narrative themes of human fragility, stories of place, environment, people and community, and also touch on more personal as well as universal themes.


What are your childhood experiences and memories of craft and/or design?
I grew up in a very creative environment- so it’s in my blood. My mother was a contemporary artist- and she worked on large abstract paintings in her studio that was just off the kitchen.  As cooking was another one of her creative passions, I have fond memories of her walking between the studio and kitchen- paintbrush and wooden spoon in hand- carrying out the two creative activities at once! We lived on a farm and my childhood was spent either outdoors making elaborate cubbies, or indoors drawing, or making towns from legos and bits of discarded wood. My dad was also creative but in a more practical way. He would design and make beautiful jarrah tables when he wasn’t doing farm duties.

min and the lads


harley and the courageous little lion


What is your worst experience as a crafter/designer, and how did you overcome it?
I have always made art, but when I was younger and more ambitious I had occasional periods of self doubt when I just didnt think I could make a particular thing, or I thought my work was not good enough to enter this or that, etc. With that comes the burden of competitiveness, and a need to strive harder driven by perfectionism. All of this wastes a lot of creative energy. With age, and the advent of cancer – from which many lessons were learned – all of that has dropped away. Life is too short to spend not doing what you love, or believing you can’t do it. Now, with an uncompromising belief in my work and a passion to create, any competitiveness has also disappeared leaving me more energy to create with.
What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in craft?
I guess its getting the balance right. As an artist you are driven to create, create, create!!!! But when you are also a mother and a wife, and a friend, and a daughter, etc, you need to be able to give all of these things the same amount of time, love, and energy as well. And not get resentful when one of the areas takes over and you can’t get into the studio as much, or guilty when you leave your child at daycare so you can spend a day working in the studio……it’s a fine balance. 



the bird and the key


paper scissors frock

What has been the icing on the cake for you as a craftsperson?
I have so many iced cakes and have really enjoyed the creative journey that this life has taken. Along the way I have worked as a community  artist, and done artist residencies with many communities including numerous remote Aboriginal communities, disadvantaged young people in the Philippines,  the multi-cultural community of Christmas Island, and in a remote village in Tibet. I have learned much from these creative exchanges which has fed my own arts practice. But I think it was being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing the treatment that comes with that; for me that was a particularly creative and life changing period, where I discovered papercut as a form of creative expression.  As a result it has become a passion, not only papercut as a medium but also the designing of the images that I use in the papercuts.

Who do you admire? What/who are your biggest influences, past or present?
Currently I love the work of artists/ designers such as Tord Boontje, Rob Ryan, Kako Ueda, Elsa Mora, Chris Natrop, Yuken Teruya, and Beatrice Coron- all wonderful and unique artists who work with paper.

miss melville and miss clarence – winner of the centennial art award, albany


it is as it is

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice for me these days seems to come from within myself. And that is to trust and believe in your work, to make what you want to make and what excites you creatively, and enjoy the ride. Everything has its time, and everything happens at its own pace – don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It will all happen as you steadily work towards making it happen. (that’s my philosophy too, Sue – If you keep going, you’ll get somewhere. – JG)

Sue has received numerous awards including the “Celebrating Albany” and “Most Popular Artist” Awards, Centennial Art Prize, Albany in 2011; The Grove Securities Acquisition Award and Grove Securities Community Award at “Illuminate”, Residency Museum, Albany in 2010; an Australia Council for the Arts Residency Award in 2003.

You can find more about Sue Codee on her website here or her blog here